With this concert falling on a St. Patrick’s Saturday night, the mood was festive and the theme was green, with young soloist Natasha Paremski appearing in an elegant emerald gown. First up was the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11 of Frederic Chopin. Chopin wrote remarkably few concertos; the orchestral setting did not agree with him as a performer. Fortunately, he did leave this work, which is a gorgeous and fully realized 40 minutes of masterful Romantic concerto writing, with plenty of room for a pianist to display every strength or weakness in his or her technique. Paremski is still a couple months shy of her 20th birthday, yet she managed to find a way with it that was very listenable and well modulated. Maestro Nir Kabaretti’s baton led the slow orchestral opening to perfection, and when Paremski entered she sounded relaxed and precise, sailing through Chopin’s chords and scales with the easy freedom of someone breathing naturally.
While the Chopin, which ended with a clever Polish dance figure, sent us all off for the interval in a good mood, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which began when we got back to our seats, took us swiftly to another level of pleasure altogether. It is easy to think this is the greatest symphony ever composed. It was certainly dazzling in the hands of Kabaretti and the Santa Barbara Symphony on Saturday night. During the applause at the finish of this piece, the maestro recognized a few of the musicians who made special contributions: Lara Wickes on oboe, Keve Wilson on English horn, flautists Francine Jacobs and Katherine Marsh, piccolo, and the entire horn section-Teag Reaves, Sarah Bach, Ethan Bearman, and Marie Lickwar.
The night was not over, as there was a St. Patrick’s-themed Irish coda to be heard, with special guests Santa Barbara-based Irish music group Dannsair. The performance began with Yaron Gottfried’s Irish Set for Orchestra and Irish Band, and continued through several more traditional Irish numbers before sending the crowd off into the frenzy that is State Street on St. Patrick’s Day. In reference to the Seventh Symphony, Beethoven once referred to himself as “Bacchus incarnate,” coming with music designed to “give humanity wine to drown its sorrow.” There is no doubt that, on this particular night of ritualized intoxication, his was at once the most potent and least toxic brew in town